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Rating the best and worst in cars, SUVs, trucks, motorcycles, tools and accessories.



2020 Bentley Continental GT V8: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Following tradition, Britain’s Bentley anoints its all-new 2020 Continental V8 coupe as a GT, which customarily denotes a two-door grand touring car with a back seat. Drive one, however, and you’d likely regard it as a pure high-performance sports car.

The Bentley engineers and designers went to a great deal of trouble to make that back seat useful, but failed. Insert any modest-sized adults comfortably in the front seats and there’s no knee room in back, despite accommodations that include armrest cup holders and USB ports.

Bentley Continental GT V8 1Sure, you can easily move the powered front seats fore and aft with a touch to divvy the space. But then the driver, chest against the steering wheel, must figure out a way to steer with his armpits. The front passenger might be able to squeeze knees under the dash—if he or she can climb in at all.

The new Continental GT is an inch shy of 16 feet long — the same as its immediate predecessor. But the wheelbase — the distance between the centers of the front and rear wheels — is about four inches longer. The engineers used that space to relocate the engine farther back and lower for improved balance. But it might have been better used for more rear cabin space.

Bentley Continental GT V8 3So it’s best to consider the Continental GT V8 as a “plus two,” distinguished from British “plus fours” — or knickers — and referring to such cars as older Porsche 911s with vestigial back seats suited mainly to cantaloupes and agile capuchin monkeys.

With two aboard, the Continental V8 stands out as a superb sports coupe with performance and handling that rivals almost anything you can find. In its milieu, it is eclipsed only by its garage-mate, the Continental W12, which is powered by a 626-hp, 6.0-liter 12-cylinder engine.

The tested Continental GT comes with a mere 542-hp, 4.0-liter V8 engine that delivers 568 lb-ft of torque, or twisting force, enough to propel it to 60 mph from rest in an estimated 3.5 seconds.

Bentley Continental GT V8 6Power makes its way to all four wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, which essentially pre-selects the next gear for shifts up or down that happen instantly. The power surge feels as smooth as a Waterford crystal champagne flute — attested to by a door sill plate that says, “Hand Crafted by Bentley Motors Ltd., Crewe, England.”

If only the W12 will suffice — it was scheduled for introduction later in the model year — it will cost you an additional $16,100 over the $201,225 for the V8, and likely more than that depending on equipment and other extras.

Bentley Continental V8 Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.comThe tested V8, with options that included lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, night vision, head-up display, ventilated front seats with massage functions, ambient mood lighting, pedestrian warning, top view rear camera and a $6,770 Bang & Olufsen audio system, came with a bottom-line sticker price of $236,345, including the destination charge.

On the test car seats, the hand-selected leather hides were done up in Camel and Imperial Blue, with the dashboard fascia and console trim highlighted by dark-stained burr walnut veneer. Almost everything about Bentleys can be owner bespoke — the British word for customized. Customers can bring in a favorite color — say, on an antique electric hair dryer — and the company will paint their Bentley to match.

Though it’s a 2020 model, the Bentley GT celebrates 2019, the company’s centenary year. The company was founded in 1919 by W. O. (for Walter Owen) Bentley and his brother, H. M. Bentley. A badge and puddle lamps on the new GT display 1919 and 2019. Bentley’s first car, designated the Three Litre, arrived in 1921.

After 1924, when the Three Litre Sport won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in Europe, Bentley went on to win that race four more times up to 1930. Some of those nonagenarian Bentleys, lovingly maintained by collectors, still cement their reputation for reliability by motoring hundreds of miles on annual rallies sponsored by Bentley owners’ clubs in the UK, Australia and the U.S.

Bentley Continental V8 Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.comFor 40 years, the Bentley name was entwined with that of Rolls-Royce. But the two parted company and Bentley now is owned by Germany’s Volkswagen.

Like other super-luxury makes, Bentley is not a major player in the U.S. market. In 2018, a total of !,972 Bentleys were sold here, including all models: Mulsanne and Flying Spur sedans, the Bentayga crossover sport utility vehicle and all versions of the Continental GT.

Bentley Continental V8 Photo: James Lipman / jameslipman.comSpecifications

  • Model: 2020 Bentley Continental GT V8 two-door coupe.
  • Engine: 4.0-liter V8, turbocharged; 542 hp, 568 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 15 feet 11 inches.
  • EPA/SAE passenger/trunk volume: 86/13 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 4,773 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: Est. 13/19/16 mpg. Premium recommended.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $201,225.
  • Price as tested: $236,345.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Bentley Continental GT Convertible V8 10Photos (c) Bentley

2018 Bentley Bentayga: A DriveWays Review…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Wealthy people have plentiful options for relaxation: five-star hotels and spas, yacht cruises, pricey entertainment and fine-wine dining. Some also choose the 2018 Bentley Bentayga crossover SUV, among the most easy-going vehicles on the planet.

In the current pattern of the runaway popularity of these tall tailgate-equipped conveyances, the Bentayga represents the pinnacle of luxury and power, although its onetime garage-mate, Rolls-Royce, is ready with its new Cullinan and other manufacturers will follow. Among them: Ferrari, Aston Martin and Lamborghini.

Duo_Tone_002When it was introduced as a 2016 model, the Bentayga was touted by its maker as the fastest SUV available anywhere, with a zero-to-60 mph acceleration time of four seconds and a top speed of 187 mph.

All that continues with the 2018 version, which is powered by a 600-hp W12 engine that delivers 664 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels.  A W12 has four banks of three cylinders each – in contrast to a V12, which has two banks of six cylinders.

Not that any of its customers cares, but the Bentayga avoids a gas guzzler tax in the U.S. Its EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption works out to 12/19/15 mpg on premium fuel. Deactivation of six cylinders when cruising economizes somewhat.

Though Bentley once was allied with Rolls-Royce, both companies are now owned by German manufacturers. Bentley is part of the Volkswagen conglomerate, which also includes Audi and Lamborghini. Bavaria’s BMW owns Rolls-Royce and Mini.

Verdant_Bentayga_004The Bentayga’s body is built at a Volkswagen plant in Germany and  shipped to the sprawling Bentley works in Crewe, England, where it is assembled to customers’ tastes with old-world hand craftsmanship. Many Bentayga models are custom-built — or bespoke in United Kingdom-talk.

With a base price of $231,825 and a tested price of $258,910, the  Bentayga W12 obviously is not an everyman’s vehicle. But it is part of the growing public infatuation with crossover SUVs. For example, in 2017 Bentley sold 1,152 Bentayga crossovers in the United States, just 101 fewer than the combined sales of all the other Bentley vehicles — Mulsanne, Flying Spur and Continental.

To augment the lineup, the company has added a lower-priced Bentayga for 2019. Powered by a 4.0-liter V8 engine with 456 hp and 429 lb-ft of torque, it comes with a base price of $197,725. Both the V8 and the V12 engines were developed by Volkswagen, with the Bentayga the first to get the W12.

Sequin_Blue_017It’s hard not to feel a rush the first time you enter the Bentayga environment. Like other Bentley models, the surroundings ooze high quality materials and bespoke craftsmanship. You sit on the finest leather upholstery available, with front seats that have built-in selectable massage choices. Rear seat passengers have burr walnut-veneered fold-down picnic tables. Expert hand-stitching stands out everywhere you look.

The only slightly jarring note in the interior is the sun shield for the panoramic sunroof. Hewing to a current fad among luxury vehicles, it is made of a perforated, cheesecloth-like material that admits too much sunlight. Sun shields should be opaque, although it’s certain Bentley would substitute one at a customer’s request.

Another minor drawback is a smallish cargo area behind the second-row seat. Space is compromised by an inflatable temporary spare tire beneath the cargo floor.

Bentley Bentayga named SUV of the Year by Robb Report UK 07Though you have 600 hp murmuring under the hood, it almost seems superfluous. You’re not likely to floor the go pedal at stoplights to reach triple-digit speeds in seconds. No, the Bentayga’s forte is relaxed cruising in utter silence. Even tire-slap sounds on rough roads barely make it through to the passengers.

The competence continues for off-roading, suggested by the Bentayga name, which is a combination of Bentley and the Taiga, the world’s largest land community of compatible plants and animals that stretches through 10 countries in the northern hemisphere.

Bentley Bentayga-3There are eight driver-selectable settings of driving modes on and off the road, including a system that fine-tunes the front and rear anti-roll bars. Others adjust the engine, transmission and steering. For on-road handling, the all-wheel drive is biased toward the rear. Off-road? Who would bash a Bentayga through the backwoods?

Of course, the Bentayga comes with all modern safety and convenience equipment, active and passive. The tested Bentayga also had $27,085 worth of options that included Bentley-wing escutcheon puddle lamps that illuminate the pavement under all four doors at night.


  • Model: 2018 Bentley Bentayga W12 four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
  • Engine: 6.0-liter W12, twin turbochargers; 600 hp, 664 lb-ft torque.
  • Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
  • Overall length: 16 feet 10 inches.
  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches.
  • EPA passenger/cargo volume: 109/17 cubic feet.
  • Weight: 5,380 pounds.
  • EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 12/19/15 mpg.
  • Base price, including destination charge: $231,825.
  • Price as tested: $258,910.

Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review.

Bentley Bentayga

Photos (c) Bentley


Bentley Drivers Club Event: A DriveWays Report…

by Frank A. Aukofer

Washington, DC — For one afternoon, the residence of the British ambassador to the United States turned into a showplace for vintage Bentley automobiles.

1928 Bentley 4-1/2 Litre

It also became a way station for a stalwart cadre of Bentley classic owners from the United Kingdom, Australia and the U.S. who drove their ancient — and a few modern — Bentleys through seven states, starting in New Orleans and ending in Baltimore on May 20.

Amazingly, the drivers and their partners, many of them spouses, said their Bentleys — at least five were 92, 93 and 94 years old from 1923, 1924 and 1925 — performed flawlessly. They reported one minor accident that bent a fender and a snapped U-joint or two on the propeller shaft of another car.

1930 Bentley Speed Six

Many of the owners were similarly vintage, in their 60s and 70s, obviously well off enough to afford the cost of shipping their cars long distances over oceans. It was less expensive but no less daunting for American owners. One from California estimated that the tour cost him $12,000. The event was organized by the Bentley Drivers Club of the UK. There were 30 Bentleys in all, including a flawless 2010 Azure convertible with just 10,000 miles on the odometer. No doubt those drivers traveled more comfortably than Vera Forsyth and Morris Avent of Bath, England, who made the trip in Avent’s 1925 Model 3 roadster.

The trip took a month and covered about 2,500 miles. Participants did not caravan but met each evening at the same accommodations. It was the fifth such tour organized by the UK Drivers Club — this one through the southeastern U.S. Earlier trips went through other areas of the country.

Ambassador Kim Darroch and wife Vanessa with a 1928 Bentley 4-1/2 Litre

For the British Embassy in Washington, it would not do for the Bentley aficionados to pass so close without recognition. So the participants and their cars were invited to the residence of Ambassador Kim Darroch on Massachusetts Avenue in Northwest D.C., which informally is called Embassy Row.

The gathering and reception started in late afternoon, smack in the middle of rush hour. Traffic on Embassy Row stopped as the vintage Bentleys made their way through security onto the residence grounds.

Inside the cars were arrayed on the lawn and in courtyards while their owners attended a reception in the residence where they sipped tea, champagne and Pimm’s, a mildly alcoholic traditional British cocktail, and nibbled on finger sandwiches and scones.

1935 Bentley 3-1/2 Litre

The residence resembles a castle with ornate rooms festooned with artwork, magnificent staircases and classical furnishings. Manicured gardens surround the residence — not unlike the homes of royalty in the UK.

Ambassador Darroch and wife Vanessa mingled with the guests and wandered among some of the vintage Bentleys. In a brief talk, Darroch confessed that his first car way back was a Triumph Herald. He said that although he did not own a Bentley, he now had become a user — from the back seat with a chauffeur.

Of the Bentley marque, Darroch quoted Winston Churchill as saying that he was a man of simple tastes, “easily satisfied with the best.” It was a certain applause line.


1938 Bentley 8-Litre

Photos (c) Frank A. Aukofer


2017 Bentley Bentayga

by Tod Mesirow

There’s a reason some things are called luxury items.  They’re better versions of workhorse items.  There’s a lot of competition at the top of the pyramid because there’s a lot of money up there.  I guess that’s the point, so to speak.  On almost all fronts, the Bentley Bentayga belongs on a pedestal, if not the tip of a pyramid, as the top of its luxury SUV class.

Read Tod’s review at

Photos (c) Tod Mesirow

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